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Suspect in deadly arson obsessed with girlfriend, angry she was returning to stripper job: prosecutors

Updated: October 8, 2013 7:58PM



It was Christmas Day, 2011, and Juan Adame was secretly filming his girlfriend.

“[It’s] like you’re on fire,” Adame whispered to Blanca Ortiz during an intimate moment that he captured on his cell phone camera.

Adame was referring to how sunlight coming through the window had turned Ortiz’s skin bright red. But less than three weeks later, the couple had split up, and Ortiz’s apartment really was ablaze.

Prosecutors — who played the video for jurors during Adame’s arson trial Tuesday — say it was Adame’s obsessive love for the former stripper that led him to torch her Southwest Side home in a fit of rage after she dumped him.

Though Ortiz wasn’t in on Jan. 14, 2012 when Adame allegedly poured gasoline over her couch and lit the fire in the 4200 block of West 63rd, her 60-year-old neighbor, James Maca, died from smoke inhalation.

Testifying Tuesday in federal court, Ortiz broke down in tears at the mention of Maca’s name, and when she described how she eventually learned from prosecutors that Adame had secretly filmed her on several occasions.

“He was very controlling,” the 37-year-old said of her nightmarish five-month relationship with Adame, 39. “He wanted to be with me all the time — he wanted to know who I was with.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bethany Biesenthal played a series of the stalkerish home movies as evidence of Adame’s twisted affections, including one in which he stood outside Ortiz’s apartment while he repeatedly said “Thank you for having me in your life.”

Ortiz said she suspected Adame of an October 2011 break-in at her home, while they were still dating. Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and a pole-dancing DVD she said were taken in the theft were later recovered from Adame.

Their relationship eventually ended the night before the fire after Adame objected to her returning to work as a stripper, and refused to allow her to travel to Mexico to see a sick relative, she testified.

That night Adame stole more items, including her Barbie doll collection and her boots before driving off in her Ford Mustang, she alleged.

Adame’s attorney, Frank Avila, suggested during his cross-examination that text messages Ortiz sent that night show she was the angry one, not Adame. But Ortiz rejected Avila’s repeated efforts to suggest that other men had access to her apartment, and that she wanted to see an ex-boyfriend in Mexico.

Jurors, who were also shown autopsy photos of Maca’s body on Tuesday, are expected to hear from another ex-girlfriend of Adame’s when the trial continues on Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege Adame made that woman an unwitting accomplice in the arson — and that she sat waiting just a block away on the night of the fire, unaware he was igniting the deadly blaze.

Email: kjanssen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @kimjnews



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